In 1977 the husband and wife team of George and Gloria Smeja established Metalmaster Roofmaster (Metalmaster) in their garage as a small, family-owned business. From its humble beginnings, Metalmaster quickly grew, eventually becoming large enough to merit its own location. For more than 35 years, the company continues to grow with an expanding geographic footprint. Today, Metalmaster operates from a 100,000-square-foot facility in McHenry, Ill.
Rock Smeja, George and Gloria’s grandson and Metalmaster’s vice president of marketing, proudly carries on the family tradition today. As the third generation of the Smeja family business, Rock works alongside his father, Michael, as well as his uncle, Daniel, who run Metalmaster as executives. Outside of direct family relation, the company employs approximately 150 team members who specialize in commercial roofing and sheet metal.
“The business started out in the residential market,” Rock recounts. “As the company grew, we had the opportunity to take on some commercial work and then the business started growing significantly. Since then we have added sister companies, including Sno Gem, a snow retention and roof attachment company.” Rock explains that the business’ expansion was a natural fit, tying in with the roofing business to provide snow protection.
“We also own Smeja LLC, which is a real estate investment company that has been in existence for 10 years,” Rock continues. “The most recent is Limitless Innovations Inc., where we develop, patent, market and sell new innovative products. My family comes from a long line of creative thinking and we hold close to 100 patents.”
The company is recognized by industry giant Firestone Building Products as one of its top contractors. Firestone has regularly awarded Metalmaster the coveted President’s Club Award, Inner Circle of Quality Award and others. The company’s partnerships with Firestone, other suppliers and strategic partners have helped the team build a reputation for quality.
On top of strong industry partnerships, the family takes great pride in the capabilities of the Metalmaster team. Craftsmanship is a key to success for Metalmaster and the company’s reputation has become a family tradition.
“My grandfather could do steeples and beautiful elaborate-type work,” Rock explains. “He had the great talent of taking a flat sheet of metal and transforming it into a work of art. He was very good at his trade and it’s this idea of craftsmanship the business was founded on.”
The company’s work is concentrated in the Midwest, where the team has performed several unique and challenging projects in the Chicago area. “Years ago, we completed sheet metal and roofing work on Navy Pier,” Rock mentions “We’re always interested in exciting projects and in the 1990s we performed work on Buckingham Fountain. Older fountains are either lined with rubber or lead and this one is lined with lead. This is one of the most well-known fountains in the world and our company put their skills to work shaping the metal to complete the project.”
In 2012 the Metalmaster team won a safety award for a project at the Argon National Laboratory, performing roof work on the lab’s energy sciences building. Other high-profile projects include recent work on a Verizon headquarters in Appleton, Wis. The crew performed all sheet metal and roofing work, as well as installing Sno Gem’s snow guards for the building. The company’s list of clients is broad and also includes: casinos, sports complexes, museums, home improvement centers, schools, banks and shopping centers to name a few.
Leveraging strong partnerships
With a large team of skilled and experienced workers, Metalmaster is able to perform most work in-house. “The exception is for shingles,” Rock explains. “It is rare that we need it, because shingles are more common in residential applications. Sometimes we do have a large commercial project that is part shingle roofing. In that case, we will work with a qualified subcontractor.”
For materials, the company relies on a set network of reliable supply partners, many of which the business has worked with for decades. Beyond roofing, Metalmaster fabricates and installs architectural elements, such as siding and metal wall panels. Metalmaster keeps samples at hand to work with architects on external building appearance before a project begins.
These strong partnerships have kept Metalmaster growing while other businesses succumbed to challenges throughout the recent recession. “There are obstacles to overcome every day,” Rock explains. “The biggest problem in recent years has been the weather. This past winter was one of the worst ever, ranking in the top three for Chicago.”
As Metalmaster cleans up after winter damage and performs construction, repair and renovation work, safety is always a priority. “Our safety director visits job sites daily to ensure that everyone on the job stays compliant with all applicable federal and state safety laws,” Rock notes. “Every project, large or small, has a custom safety plan set in place.” The crew has a very low incident rate, which is yet another reason customers choose Metalmaster time and again for complex commercial work.
Between Metalmaster and its sister businesses, the Smejas have built a diverse group of companies; all of which are on a path of steady growth. Of course, customer satisfaction is at a premium for the roofing business. Guided by a family tradition of quality craftsmanship and service, Metalmaster Roofmaster continues upward as one of the country’s largest leading roofing companies.
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